Tech giants like Google and Amazon are beefing up their healthcare strategies. Here’s how 7 tech titans plan to tackle the $3.5 trillion industry

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Big tech giants have their eyes on the $3.5 trillion US healthcare industry.
As healthcare costs keep rising for Americans, tech companies are betting they can have a part in fixing the broken pieces of the industry.

Here’s how tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are building out their healthcare strategies.
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The $3.5 trillion healthcare industry is ripe for disruption.

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Healthcare costs are rising for consumers, and numerous players all wanting control over the dollars flowing in and out. From the perspective of the fast-moving technology industry, change is slow going, leaving entrepreneurs and companies alike thinking, “There has to be an easier way.”

Tech powerhouses like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are increasingly focused on expanding in US healthcare. They’ve pursued strategies like selling software and computing services, offering hardware, and even shown some signs that they’ll get into the business of providing healthcare.

They’re not alone in going after the inefficient healthcare system. America’s largest retailers like Walmart and CVS Health are also bulking up their healthcare strategies in a bid to win over patients with more convenient care and ideally lower prices.

Here’s how tech companies like Google, Microsoft, and Amazon are building out their healthcare strategies, drawing from their respective tech industry expertise and often focusing on fixing healthcare starting with their own employees.

Read more: Companies like Walmart, CVS, and Amazon are beefing up their healthcare strategies. Here are their plans to upend the $3.5 trillion industry.

Amazon

Amazon Care websiteAmazon in 2018 sent shockwaves through the healthcare industry when it said it was acquiring online pharmacy PillPack. PillPack mails prescriptions to people who take multiple medications, packaging them together based on dose. The company has pharmacies around the country that send out medications by mail.

In addition to PillPack, Amazon is building out services for its employees. In September, Amazon revealed its new health clinic program, Amazon Care. Through the program, which is still in the pilot stage, Amazon employees in the Seattle area can get virtual visits with doctors and in-home care that includes delivery of prescription medicines. The company has also acquired a digital health startup called Health Navigator, which will join Amazon Care, CNBC reported in October.

Over the past year, PillPack has started to give hints of where it’s business is heading with the support of Amazon. CNBC reported in May that a group of health insurers approached PillPack about providing its services to their customers, though no agreement has yet been reached.

Google

Dr. David Feinberg, the head of Google HealthOver the past year, Google has gotten deeper into healthcare, hiring Dr. David Feinberg to head up the Google Health division.

Feinberg’s team is now responsible for coordinating health initiatives across Google, ranging from the company’s search engine and map products, to its Android smartphone operating system, to more futuristic offerings in areas like artificial intelligence.

In his speech at a conference in October, Feinberg said that one of his first main goals for the team will be to oversee how health-related searches come up, and work to improve that with the Google Search team.

Read more: We just got our first look at what Google’s grand plans are for healthcare after it brought in a top doctor to lead its health team

Google Health is just one aspect of parent company Alphabet’s healthcare strategy. Within Google, Google Cloud is working to ink cloud contracts with healthcare systems. Mayo Clinic in September signed Google as its cloud and AI partner.

There’s also Verily, the life sciences arm of Alphabet, as well as Calico, its life-extension spinoff. Verily has its hands in projects spanning robotics to blood-sugar-tracking devices to work on addiction treatment. The company has also made investments in healthcare through its venture funds GV and Capital G as well as through Alphabet itself.

On Friday, Google reached a $2.1 billion deal to acquire Fitbit. The brand, best known for its fitness watches, also has a big business selling a health platform that combines coaching and fitness tracking to employers and health plans.

Beyond working with existing products, Feinberg’s oversight includes the health team at Google AI, hardware components, and DeepMind Health. Both Google AI and DeepMind have pursued projects that analyze medical images like eye scans and scans of breast cancer cells, with the hope of aiding medical professionals in diagnosing and treating patients.

Apple

Apple Watch Series 5Apple has slowly but surely moved its way into healthcare, in particular through its hardware including the Apple Watch. The watch can track heart rate and look for abnormal heart rhythms, and its most recent iteration also included an update for menstrual cycle tracking.

Apple’s phones are also pre-loaded with a Health app, collecting fitness and health data users opt to share with the device. The health app also has the ability to collect personal health record information and sync up with some hospitals. The app tracks things like vaccination records, lab results, and allergies.

The company has been going deep on heart health, hiring cardiologists and in 2018 getting the Food and Drug Administration’s approval for its heart-monitoring technology, giving it the ability to alert wearers of irregular heart rates.

Researchers are also increasingly using data from the watch and other Apple devices in studies.

Apple’s also been working with insurers like Aetna and UnitedHealthcare. In the case of Aetna, the program is wagering that an app and an Apple Watch can keep its members healthier. Medicare Advantage upstart Devoted Health is covering the watch as a benefit.

Apple also operates clinics for its employees, called AC Wellness Networks, which are run independently from Apple but are exclusively for its employees.

Microsoft

microsoft research peter leeMicrosoft has historically had trouble cracking into the healthcare business. Most notably, Microsoft built its health-records tool called HealthVault, but it also ultimately didn’t work and was wound down.

Now, the company’s health strategy lies in its ability to provide cloud services to healthcare companies as well as software.

That’s taken shape in the form of high-profile partnerships with the likes of companies like Walgreens, Novartis, Humana, and West Coast-based health system Providence St. Joseph Health.

In addition to providing cloud services, Microsoft also commits to working with its partners on projects. For instance, with Walgreens, it plans to test out health offerings, including 12 pilot “digital health corners” in stores. Those are in the process of being executed, Peter Lee, the corporate vice president of Microsoft Healthcare told Business Insider at the HLTH conference in Las Vegas.

“It feels like we’re really well organized right now,” Lee said.

Facebook

facebook ceo mark zuckerbergFacebook, the social network giant, is looking to intersect with the healthcare market via monitoring tools and leveraging its communities to put out the call for blood donations.

Facebook’ health plays are led by its head of healthcare research Dr. Freddy Abnousi, a cardiologist.

In October, the company unveiled a tool called “Preventive Health” that’s aimed at prompting users to get check-ups and providing options where they can go get appointments and see what tests they might need to take, like to check on cholesterol levels. Facebook said the information provided on the tool is only accessible to a select team at Facebook and won’t be shared with third parties like health insurers.

Even so, Facebook’s health ambitions come with a major layer of skepticism based on the company’s track record of data sharing with advertisers and other third parties.

“No one’s going to tell Facebook about their diabetes or STDs,” New York University marketing professor Scott Galloway said in December.

Uber

Uber Lyft Taxi CarRide-hailing company Uber is betting that it can turn its healthcare ambitions into a key business, using its Uber Health unit as a new way to get into smaller, rural markets across the country.

Uber Health works with health plans to provide rides to doctor offices for patients who might otherwise have a hard time going in. In 2018, the company hired Dan Trigub from its competitor Lyft to head the team.

Uber Health works with health plans to manage the transportation needs of their members, particularly elderly Americans in Medicare plans — the federal health-insurance program for seniors — and those on Medicaid plans serving low-income Americans. Drivers are assigned rides that are treated the same as commercial trips.

The health-transportation market is massive — LogistiCare, a transportation broker that Uber is working with, facilitates more than 60 million trips a year — and Uber is one of a number of players in the space that includes Lyft as well.

Because of the arrangements with health plans that want to coordinate travel for their members, Uber is able to move into more rural markets.

“When we think about our aging population, they tend to live away from big cities and in those rural markets,” Trigub told Business Insider in an October interview on the sidelines of the CB Insights Future of Health conference in New York.

Lyft

lyft appLike Uber, Lyft is drawing from its expertise in transportation as it builds its health business.

“You’re seeing every tech company get into care. It’s a sixth of our GDP. So it’s kind of hard to ignore it as, as a market,” Megan Callahan, vice president of healthcare at Lyft, told Business Insider.

Callahan joined Lyft in November 2018 after serving as the chief strategy officer at Change Healthcare, a spin-out of McKesson.

Starting in 2016, Lyft has been working with health plans, health systems, and transportation brokers to manage their members transportation needs. The company now works with Medicaid plans in six states, tapping into what Callahan characterized as a little over half of the $6 billion non-emergency medical transportation market.

Callahan told Business Insider that the team is a “fast-growing part of Lyft Business,” the enterprise businesses associated with the ride-sharing company.

Callahan said that the company has a higher volume of rides than Uber’s health division. Neither Lyft nor Uber breaks out its ride volume related to health.

Source: Business Insider

Author: Lydia Ramsey

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